I wrote this essay about six months ago, and a portion of it was shared on the Coffee + Crumbs social media accounts as a #ccfreewrite. Today I’m sharing the whole essay because that seems appropriate for the week after Mother’s Day.
I carried you before I even knew you were there, back when you were just a poppy seed inside my rapidly growing womb. I didn’t believe the pregnancy test at first, convinced as I was that my turn was still many months away.
I carried you to church on the day I thought I was losing you, choosing to forgo mascara because I knew it would run down my cheeks like a muddy river. It was Easter and everyone was singing about new life and resurrection and light after the dark, but all I could think about was how much today felt like death, like the life was being ripped right out of me.
I carried you to the hospital for an ultrasound later that week, where the technician gave nothing away for a solid twenty minutes. Then she turned the machine toward me, the grainy screen lighting up the darkness, not because the screen was all that bright but because your beating heart was the spark of hope I needed, lighting a fire in my chest. You looked like a jelly bean with impossibly tiny arms, and I watched your heart flicker wildly. I was unable to focus any longer on the kind woman with the Ukrainian accent; she told me you were strong, and that was all I needed to know.
I carried you to Colorado and Wisconsin and Seattle before you were even born, where we climbed mountains and went for boat rides and tasted some of the best coffee America has to offer. I promised that I’d always try to cultivate in you a sense of adventure and a deep appreciation for nature and people and beauty.
I carried you to my due date, and then I carried you to the doctor at seven days past, when she told me I had made no progress and would have to be induced later that week. I carried you for forty-one weeks and five days, checking in to the hospital after a big Thanksgiving dinner. I knew I’d be walking out of that hospital a different person, but what I didn’t know was how different the rest of the world would look to me too. How did everyone else not notice the shift?
I carried you down the stairs for overnight breastfeeding sessions, because you took forever to eat and I needed to find a way to distract myself from the searing pain. While you sucked away like a tiny barracuda, I watched hours of The Great British Baking Show and cheesy Christmas movies. I carried you back and forth across our living room, looping through the dining room and then trailing through the kitchen as I tried to lull you back to sleep. Sometimes you would cry inconsolably, and other times you’d just stare at me with those wide blue eyes, and I wondered if you’d ever let me put you down.
I carried you in the Solly wrap, ballet-slipper pink with cream polka dots, around the house and outside to fetch the mail and while I attempted to work out my still-broken body. I patted your back and whispered soothing shhh-shhh-shhhs, willing you to fall asleep against my chest and sometimes succeeding.
I carried you to work, to church, to the grocery store, and to Target. You loved to ride in the cart and wave at all the people and gaze in wonder at the displays of cookies and cupcakes. I carried you when the stimulation became too much and you needed to retreat, trading novelty for comfort.
I carried you home after you fell down on the sidewalk, scraping the silky baby skin right off your knee, ushering in the transition to toddlerhood. I swept you into my arms as you buried your face in my hair, wailing, confused by this new sensation. I wanted to absorb your pain as you wrapped your legs around my waist, but I had to settle for rubbing your back and assuring you that the sting would ease eventually.
I carried you back into the house last Sunday, because you’d somehow snuck your blankie outside, and our rule is that blankie stays inside when we go for a walk. You were kicking and screaming against me the whole way, and I desperately wanted to let you have that blankie, but I was already in too far and they say parenting is about consistency.
I carried you up the stairs to bed last night, and down the stairs again this morning to eat breakfast before I went to work. You used to love to climb and scamper down the stairs on your own, but lately you want to be in my arms, and I don’t mind.
I carried you a thousand times when my arms were aching and my wrists were sore and my back was screaming for a break. Some days I just want to put you down without a fight, without hearing you cry to be back in my arms. But I don’t know when I’ll put you down and you’ll never ask me to carry you again.
When that day comes, I hope you’ll let me carry you in other ways. I’ll carry your burdens, your pain, your joy, your dreams. I’ll carry hope on your behalf when you face the bitter sting of rejection, and I’ll carry you to the other side of transitions and traumas and triumphs.
I’ll carry you—because carrying you has taught me how to be a mother.